Archive for the 'Teacher Education' Category

Flashback to Peru

IMG_4375Last summer, Sara Douvalakis and six other College of Education students participated in the College’s first faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. Led by Drs. Melissa Gibson and Jeff LaBelle, S.J., the students wrote about their experience. For this #ThrowbackThursday, we aren’t going too far back in time– just to May 2017!
My name is Sara and I am a senior at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I am originally from a suburb of Chicago, and in the fall I will be a senior in the College of Ed with a double major in Psychology and Elementary Education. My hobbies include cooking, online shopping, grabbing coffee with friends, and of course eating!

I am traveling to Peru as part of a first time study abroad program  for education majors. This is the first time that the College of Education at MU has offered a study abroad program. While in Peru, I will be taking two courses for a total of 6 credits; the courses focus on Critical Issues in Education and Philosophy of Education. The courses will examine the philosophical underpinnings of various educational approaches in the US and Peru, as well as the key issues, policies, and practices that are part of global debate about what constitutes a high quality and equitable education.

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Day 1:
After two long flights from Chicago to Panama City and then to Lima Peru, we finally made it. Although my legs felt like Jell-O from sitting for almost nine hours in the plane, all of my luggage arrived and I am forever grateful for that. Phew! After weaving through late night Peruvian traffic, we arrived at our host family’s home. The home belongs to a family of four; MariLuz, her husband, Jose (our tour guide) and his sister Carla, who is currently in Columbia.

In the morning we were served fresh rolls and jelly for breakfast. Once our tummies were full, we headed out for our first of many walking tours. Our host brother, Jose, took us through the neighborhoods to the Jesuit University that is hosting us. We spent the day meeting locals, students, and other education students at Universidad Antonio Ruiz De Montoya (UARM). We walked around the beautiful outdoor campus, which was bustling with students from all over Peru.

During some presentations shown to us by administrators from UARM, we listened to a panel of students and professors who introduced us to some of the issues in education. The thing that most caught my attention was the fact that education is very centralized in Lima. Many people in the country do not have access to education like we do in the United States. Many of the people in the jungle and in the mountains are not able to travel hours a day for access to education. During the panel, there was a student who received the Beca (scholarship) 18, which is for students in very high poverty areas, and it provides them the opportunity to go to college on a full ride. This particular student was from the mountains of Peru without the opportunity to go to college; however, with this scholarship she is able to attend school for four years for absolutely no cost. While she was speaking it was clear that she had come great lengths to travel to the city of Lima and attend college in her non-native language. Stories like this are what motivate and excite me to be a teacher.

Once the presentations were over, Jose picked us back up at UARM, and we were off to another tour. This time he led us through the neighborhood/district, which we are staying in called Jesus Maria. Lima is split into districts and neighborhoods each with historical names. The streets are lined with panaderías and cevicherías. As well as shoe stores, hair dressers and nail salons (so many nail salons). We then made our way to the plaza of Jesus Maria where locals gather around in the town square. After a quick stop for ice cream, we made our way back to the house where we were served a traditional Peruvian dinner of garlic rice and meat stew with potatoes.

Overall today was a whirlwind. I quickly learned that my Spanish is nowhere near where I thought it was and that winter in Peru is actually nicer than most days in Milwaukee. It is past 10 pm here and tomorrow breakfast is being served at 6 am…. yikes!

Day 2:
Day two began with our alarm going off at 5:30 am (thank goodness for Peruvian coffee). After a sit down breakfast of freshly blended jugo de papaya y piña and pan we were off to MLK Socio Deportivo School to play futból with local children who live in the district of EL Agustino. This is one of the 49 districts of Lima; it was filled with abundant markets and hustle and bustle at every corner. MLK is a program founded by ex-gang members who are trying to enrich the community and provide opportunities for children growing up in this district. Although this is one of the poorer districts, it was my favorite location so far. Right away, I noticed friendly locals welcoming us, and beautifully colored homes lining the streets. Wild dogs and cats joined us on our walks through the neighborhoods, and even on the futból field.

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The children of el Agustino made us feel welcome right away and were so curious about different English words and toys that we have in America. The boys were fascinated with my light eyes and blonde hair, since many Peruvians have darker hair and eyes. We were split into soccer teams and played short scrimmages against each other. I even scored a goal! Through this activity the children are taught sportsmanship, respect, and conflict/resolution. MLK Socio Deportivo School is working with the community to bring families and children together in a positive way.

IMG_4351Now for the best part of the day…lunch! The lunch we were served today was a lunch for the gods, no joke. We had fresh ceviche (which I wanted to take home in my backpack), fried fish, rice with seafood and different corn salads. El Agustino is like no place I have ever been, and I was absolutely fascinated with all of the sights before me. I could have walked up and down those streets forever.

After a long and nauseating car ride in Peruvian traffic, we went back to the host university for our first official seminar. Here we talked about our readings, reflected on our first impressions, and talked about the big ideas for our courses (don’t forget I am here for school after all). And now here I am, in the living room of my homestay writing my first blog ever with my six amigas. Soon dinner will be served to us by MariLuz, and we will finish up our very first blog posts for all the world to enjoy (or mostly my mom). I am so blessed to be here and have loved every minute; although my body and brain are exhausted, I cannot wait to wake up the next morning and have a new set of incredible experiences.

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Today’s lessons:

  • “Children are seeds, who have the potential to grow into beautiful flowers and teachers are the sunlight that can get them there” –Rodrigo from the UARM Student panel
  • Do NOT flush toilet paper. It must be thrown into the trash…yeah, it is an adjustment.
  • Winter in Peru is interesting. Wear layers because one minute you are sweating and another minute you are “freezing.”

State Capitol Commemorative Essay and Art Competition

Wisconsin_State_Capitol_Building_during_Tulip_FestivalBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

To commemorate and celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Wisconsin State Capitol, the Commemorative Commission is hosting a writing and essay competition for Wisconsin students.

Students in grades K-12, are encouraged to “submit an essay or piece of art which details or symbolizes the importance of the Capitol building and what it means to Wisconsin. Essays should be no longer than one page in length and either typed or legibly written. Art pieces should be two-dimensional, made out of non-breakable material, and no larger than 24 inches by 30 inches.”

When I provided this writing opportunity to my summer school students, I encouraged them to do research and cite sources. I wanted to see my students take a risk and do something original, creative and unexpected.

Entries must be received by October 13th, 2017.

If students are unable to visit the Wisconsin State Capitol, information can be found online here: https://capitol100th.wisconsin.gov/

You can find out more about this writing opportunity here.

If you’re looking for example essays, here are four from my summer school class.

 

 

Home Safe and Sound… But Changed

use 3The students from our first-ever, COED-led study abroad trip to Peru have returned! After a month in Peru, all seven students have written extensively on their experiences as part of the course. However, you’ll find that their adventures outside of the classroom were just as educational.

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Read on to learn more about Claire, Addy, Sara, Amy, Liz, Amy, and Carrie have learned in their own words!

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The Last Day of School

1000w_q95By Stephanie Nicoletti

On Friday there was a certain buzz going around the school, the kids came in with happy faces and even teachers were grinning ear to ear; it was the last day of school. During our closing circle on the last day I told my students that I enjoyed every minute with them and absolutely loved watching them grow over the school year.

Each year I always get sad during our last closing circle, your students become a part of you after spending a year together. This year I even had a little one who had tears streaming from his face when the bell rang, he was so upset he did not want to leave the classroom. This made me sad of course, but it also made me realize that all of the work teachers do over the summer to prepare for the following school year does not go unnoticed.

I was making a list this morning of all of the things I wanted to accomplish this summer before the school year starts. The list is long and daunting, but then I remember the tears that were in my classroom on the last day and remind myself that everything teachers do, no matter how daunting it may seem, is always for the students. While this summer will be fun, relaxing and refreshing for students and teachers alike, do not forget to remember your students who are itching to come back to school!

Teach For America: Semester Wrap-Up

As the academic year closes, students in the College of Education’s Masters Degree programs are wrapping up extensive research and consultant projects — read on to learn more about their work!

Enrolled in the College of Education and serving as Teach For America-Milwaukee corps members for two years, these graduate students in Dr. Patricia Ellis’ Analysis of Teaching Course are no strangers to the rigors of academic life both on Marquette University’s campus and in their classrooms.

We asked Tyra Hildebrand, Assistant Director of the College of Education’s TFA partnership, and Dr. Ellis to weigh in on the students’ final projects for this course.

As students put theory into practice within their classrooms, they are able to highlight how social justice, cultural responsiveness, rigor, differentiation, and inquiry not only increase student achievement but also develop their students’ soft skills.

How did this particular assignment come about?

Tyra Hildebrand (TH): “This unit plan assignment has been a regular part of the Analysis of Teaching course at MU. However, four years ago, Dr. Whipp and I made some important modifications to the assignment, in order to ensure our in-service teachers created a culturally relevant, student based, inquiry curriculum project. A book that was used in multiple classes, Pedagogy of Confidence by Yvette Jackson, identifies seven High Operational Practices, which was an additional framework for the project:

· Identifying and Activating Student Strengths

· Building Relationships

· Eliciting High Intellectual Performance

· Providing Enrichment

· Integrating Prerequisites for Academic Learning

· Situating Learning in the Lives of Students

· Amplifying Student Voice

The teachers also had to incorporate the Inquiry Learning Model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate) into their Unit Plan.”

Jake Burkard, Chemistry/Math Teacher, Bay View High School, “Heat of Combustion: Magnesium”

What are your goals for the students?

TH: “One of the goals for this project is for our in-service teachers to realize they can successfully plan and facilitate a real-world investigation with their students. This required them to move into highly constructivist teaching methods, which can be unsettling at first. The teachers also noted how truly engaged their students were in this project, which will hopefully carry on in further curriculum planning. Additionally, they recognized how cross-curricular their projects were, and hopefully that will result in reaching out to their teaching colleagues for planning future projects.”

Dr. Patricia Ellis (PE): “Inquiry-based learning brings a level of energy, inquisitiveness, rigor, and excitement into the classroom that makes learning meaningful and relevant for the teacher and their students. The learner-centered curriculum project allows the TFA students to facilitate learning in a manner that supports and nurtures the academic and social-emotional development of the whole child.

Engagement in this project encourages the TFA students to grow professionally and personally as they broaden and deepen their skills, talents, and gifts as well as the skills, talents, and gifts of the students in their classrooms.

As the TFA students discuss the impact of the project on their students, they frequently speak to how they see their classroom attendance increase, students becoming more actively engaged in learning, and students taking great pride in their accomplishments. They also express how this project facilitates interdisciplinary collaboration with colleagues and allows them to explore potential partnerships with community organizations.

The process and completion of this project teaches students how intentional planning, organization, persistence, flexibility, creativity, trust, diligence, belief, resiliency, determination, and reflection in addition to content knowledge are powerful skills and dispositions for classroom teachers to possess and practice on a daily basis.”

Allison Gleiss and her student, Math Teacher, Carmen Northwest High School, “Loans and Logarithms: A Car Buying Guide”

What are the benefits of the presentation?

PE: “Seeing the amazing displays of their students’ work along with hearing the passion in their voices as they present their learner-centered curriculum projects clearly demonstrates how engagement in this project helps to change and transform the TFA students’ instructional practices and levels of student engagement.

As students put theory into practice within their classrooms, they are able to highlight how social justice, cultural responsiveness, rigor, differentiation, and inquiry not only increase student achievement but also develop their students’ soft skills.”

Too often, teachers are isolated in their own classroom, but this project allowed the teachers to showcase the student learning.

TH: “Having the opportunity to publicly share the findings of their project is highly rewarding. Each year, we see how proud the teachers are of what their middle and high school students accomplished. We have seen over the years in this project, that the K-12 students always go above and beyond their teachers’ expectations. The teachers also have the opportunity to see what projects their peers facilitated, which is enlightening.”

Teddy Amdur, Physics/Math Teacher, Bay View High School, “Shark Tank: Exploring the Intersection of Entrepreneurship & Systems of Inequalities”

What are the benefits of the feedback?

PE: “Feedback from peers, supervisors, coaches, professional educators, and other professors allows the students to reflect on and enhance their professional practice in order to maximize student achievement and engagement. The feedback also serves to motivate, encourage, nurture, and inspire students to face challenges with courage and to autograph their work in the classroom with excellence.”

Annie Teigen, HOPE High School, “Case File Chemistry”

TH: “Our audience members and fellow teachers provided a great deal of constructive feedback for the presenter to contemplate if they were to embark on this project again. This cohort of teachers regularly learns from one another and they push each other to become better for their students. Too often, teachers are isolated in their own classroom, but this project allowed the teachers to showcase the student learning.”

Want to learn more about TFA and Marquette University’s College of Education’s graduate programs? Visit us online!

Wearing My Team Jersey: It’s the People, Not the Program

football-1206741_960_720By Peggy Wuenstel

There is a constant drive in education to find the magic bullet, the secret recipe, the cutting edge approach that will magically turn a failing school into a flourishing one. Just like the late night commercials that advertise miracle weight loss solutions, I believe that if there were a magic formula for either, we would all be using them. What I have also come to understand is that it is the people, not the programs that make schools work. I have been blessed to work in one of those places where the team truly comes together. The team jersey I wear as a Washington Golden Eagle is the next of those things that I know I’ve got before they’re gone. People often ask me: “What makes your school different?” After all these years it has become evident to me. It is the teaching team with which I suit up for the work of guiding children every day.

There are two other elementary schools in my district. One is much smaller, with a much more homogeneous student population and laudable student performance measures. The other is very similar to my place of employment, with similar enrollment, demographics, challenges, and surrounding community. Where we differ most is in the longevity of the “team” in place and in the consistency of the instructional approaches in play in the two schools. In an effort to raise student performance measures, the dedicated staff of that building has gone through many incarnations, including an inquiry-based charter, and a new foray into a reading program that is much more structured than the one in use in my school. I wish them well in their quest to improve student learning, but am grateful that our building focus has remained on the people vs. the implementation of programs. We’ve had little staff turnover in my 15 years here, and many of our new “draft choices” have been transfers from within the district. These are teachers with which we had already established working relationships.

I work with educators who have already made the mindset shift to the absolute necessity of individualizing instruction. What happens when a child fails to learn here is not seen as a lack within the child, but within the range of approaches that we have attempted thus far. Resource and child assistance teams are not just the doorway to referral services (guidance, tutoring, reading or math interventions, or special education) but a way to problem-solve and enhance universal classroom instruction. Lack of benchmark attainment does not mean NOT, it simply means NOT YET. Our building goals have consistently targeted our highest need populations through good instruction and appropriate small group interventions. When teachers are committed to assisting children with performance gaps, instruction improves for all students because it is systematic, purposeful, and directly tied to assessment.

The environment is highly inclusive at Washington Elementary. Students with challenges (English Language Learners, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, children who have experienced childhood trauma) are fully integrated into classrooms. The techniques and supports in place to aid these students in meeting grade level expectations improve classroom climate and create access to learning for all. We have moved past the point of accommodating differences to valuing and celebrating the diversity that our students bring to their classes.

We have had the luxury of administration at the Board of Education, superintendent, and principal levels that understands that this willingness to take responsibility for enhanced classroom learning requires quality professional development along with the time and support to implement it effectively. It also necessitates the planning for assessment of its effectiveness, and the need for tweaks, additions, and deletions over time, and modifications when incorporated by different staff members. If we want custom-fit garments, we have to be willing to pay the tailor or the seamstress.

Another key piece is the continual improvement mindset we have adopted for ourselves and others. Getting better is what the process of education is all about, and we must be models of that for our students. Where we often differ is in how best to document that growth and forward movement. How delightful it is when it is evident in the accomplishments of our students and the pride of the community we serve!

My fellow teachers have also demonstrated their willingness to choose strategies for their efficacy for students and alignment with classroom practice, district vision and standards rather than for convenience or ease of implementation. The art of teaching still lies within our ability to make those good instructional decisions. The best way to know that a program is not for me is when the sales rep tells me, “It’s so easy to use that you don’t even have to think about it.” I always used to say that when I got to that point it would be time to retire. I’m delighted to say that I’m ready to retire and still actively thinking about what I present to students each day.

My principal is also our district’s head football coach, and sometimes he can overdo the sports references. We tend to prefer the family metaphor to the team moniker. It’s more like wearing the t-shirt at the family reunion than suiting up for the big game. It’s not as much about the competition and winning, or even about getting better, harder, faster or stronger. It’s about being a contributing member of the team, and knowing your role in the play we’ve called for the day. I’ve earned my team jersey. I wear it with pride, and I’m definitely packing it for the next leg of my journey.

 

 

Riding in My Big Yellow Taxi

old_checker_cabBy Peggy Wuenstel

Joni Mitchell’s iconic song Big Yellow Taxi holds special meaning for me, especially this year. In addition to being that rarity, a song that has an excellent remake courtesy Counting Crows, it is a reminder to take stock of all those things we value. Contrary to the famous line, I do know what I’ve got before it’s gone. The beauty of planning ahead for retirement, promotion, or a job change is that the “going” is far enough away that you can reflect on what you have. This is it, the last 189.5 days of my full-time teaching life. (And 40 of them are already behind me at this posting.) It is the countdown of “last experiences,” back-to-school open house, Christmas program, report cards, snow day, etc. The vast majority of those things are not the ones I will happy to see go, but the things I am so grateful to have been a part of.

In this last year of blogging for the Marquette Educator, something else I will deeply miss, I plan to visit all of those treasures I know I have today. Some I’ll leave behind. Some I’ll pass on to others. Some I will never be able to part with and some are so much a part of me that I wouldn’t be able to extricate them if I tried.  My teaching team, the memories I will take with me as I leave the classroom, the daily positivity that surrounds a successful elementary school all made the list. I have made a promise to myself not to let remembering the past or planning for the future diminish my pleasure or purpose in completing this last year.

I’ve already begun tossing the old, the dated worksheets, the books that don’t inspire, the programs and materials that do not align with the research or contribute to best practices. This process is actually long overdue. In this digital age we teach differently than we have in the past, keeping things in computer files rather than hard copy. This winnowing requires examining the reasons why we are holding on to our” treasures.” Someone put in a lot of time and effort to make these materials. We had such fun when we taught this unit. We have always done it this way; it’s tradition.

I am also mindful and grateful that I have the opportunity to retire. Many of my students’ families may never have that opportunity.  Company loyalty, hiring and firing practices, maximizing profits and shareholder dividends all limit an employee’s options in remaining in an organization or career. Relocation for the job of a spouse, need to return to care for an ailing or aging parent or support a child for whom economic opportunity has not yet arrived also limit our chances for stability and advancement.

Longevity at a job is not always considered a plus on a résumé. My job has allowed me the freedom to grow, change settings, and feel that I make a difference in the same place and with the same extraordinary team (more about that next month). Many people in our society have no such opportunities. Isn’t this the primary role of education: creating in our students the set of skills and attitudes that prepare them for a successful future. That has been harder to envision in recent years. Even in these times when our teacher benefits and compensation are both reduced and uncertain, I am grateful that my situation allows for retirement.

I am working under a new superintendent this year, part of  the revolving door status quo in Wisconsin schools as school leaders relocate every few years as their jobs are less stable or satisfying than in my first years in education. These conditions make educators uncertain of district commitment to teacher benefits and alter labor relations. This will be the 5th administrator I have worked under in my 15-year tenure in my district.

I have remained in Whitewater twice as long as anywhere else  I have worked in my 34-year career because this district allowed me the opportunity for continual growth and reinvention. I worked part-time in between full-time bookends at the beginning and end of my career here. I explored opportunities with UW-Whitewater,Wisconsin’s DPI, and the Whitewater community. I had many chances and myriad encouragements to lead at the program, school, district, and state level. I always had the personal sense of moving forward, while many aspects of education (funding, public support, legislative decisions) seemed to be moving backward.

On my bulletin board (another future post) there is a reminder: “If you don’t like the direction of the wind, you can always adjust the sails.” I have been distressed about many of the directions that education has taken in Wisconsin in recent years, and it’s time to let someone else take the tack so that I can sail in calmer waters, enjoy the scenery, and slow the pace. Let the adventure begin, my big yellow taxi is waiting at the dock.

 


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